General | March 12, 2018 | Author: Naturopath
Epilepsy is a common neurological condition in which a person tends to have recurring seizures. During a seizure there is a sudden disruption to normal brain activity, which causes unusual movements, odd feelings, changed behaviour or impaired consciousness. Complementary therapies can help control symptoms of epilepsy—especially when traditional medicines are ineffective or cause too many adverse reactions.
The brain is made up of millions of nerve cells called neurons which carry messages between the brain and the body. These cells generate electrical impulses to carry these messages to produce thoughts, feelings, movement and control body functions. A seizure happens when the normal alternating pattern of these impulses is disrupted, causing the impulses to rapidly fire all at once.
Most seizures last for under 2 minutes. What is experienced, and the intensity of these symptoms can vary greatly—as some are severe and some very subtle.
Not all seizures are considered epilepsy. Epilepsy is a disease of the brain characterised by the tendency to have recurrent seizures.
There are many different types of seizures that fall into two main categories. If the onset hasn’t been identified they will then be classed as unknown onset.
This type of seizure was formally known as a partial seizure because only part of the brain is involved. Signs and symptoms vary from person to person depending on what part of the brain the seizure occurs in.
The two types of focal epileptic seizures are:
Aura—the person remains completely conscious but will experience unusual sensations or movements such as pins and needles, an unpleasant smell, or confusing thoughts or experiences.
Focal dyscognitive seizures—this type of seizure only affects one part of the brain. The person appears in a trance-like state and may do strange or repetitive actions such as uttering strange sounds or fiddling with their clothes.
There are several types of generalised seizures including:
In many cases the cause of epilepsy is not always known. Certain triggers can include lack of sleep and stress.
A diet high in healthy fats, with adequate protein and low in carbohydrates is referred to as a ketogenic diet. Research has found this way of eating can reduce seizures in children and adults. When following a ketogenic diet, the body breaks down fats and uses ketones for energy instead of carbohydrates. This state is known as ketosis and causes changes in body chemistry that may help to control seizures. Adhering to this kind of diet can be very challenging and seeking advice from a health professional is a must.
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Medicinal cannabis may be approved if you have already tried the conventional treatments available and these have been ineffective, or if the effects of the conventional treatment proves to be intolerable for you.
Your doctor will need to provide scientific evidence that the proposed type of medicinal cannabis is effective for your condition or symptoms.
CBD is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis which has anti-convulsant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, neuroprotective and immunoregulatory effects. Numerous studies have found benefit for epileptics, but more research needs to be done.
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The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve that connects the brain to the body. It contains motor and sensory fibres that send signals through the body. During vagus nerve stimulation therapy, a small nerve stimulator is placed on the person’s chest. The stimulator connects to the nerve and controls electrical energy flowing to and from the brain. When a patient with epilepsy experiences signs and symptoms that a seizure may be beginning they can activate the stimulator with a magnet that can help prevent the seizure. Unfortunately, this type of therapy doesn’t work for every patient, but it can still help reduce seizures on average by about 50 percent.
There are many different triggers which can vary for each person. It is important to understand what can bring on seizures for you and aim to reduce their effects. For example, if you find stress is a worsening factor then find ways to reduce this in your life by implementing exercise and relaxation techniques. Supplements which may assist include passionflower, magnolia or magnesium.
Make sure you are aiming for 7-9 hours sleep each night as sleep deprivation is a well-known trigger.
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Magnesium is a potential modulator of seizure activity because of its ability to antagonize excitation. Some studies have shown that people with epilepsy have lower magnesium levels than people without epilepsy. There are case reports of seizures being controlled with magnesium, but more research needs to be done in this area to confirm these findings.